On the building or construction site

This information is for quarry workers, builders, stoneworkers, woodworkers and painters. It gives information on things in the workplace that could damage the lungs and advice on how to protect them.

What are the hazards?

These are some of the hazards you may come into contact with at work.

  • Silica dust

    Created when working on materials that have silica in them (for example concrete, mortar, sandstone and artificial stone).

  • Wood dust

    Created when working on softwood, hardwood and wood-based products like MDF and plywood.

  • Less toxic dusts

    Created when working on materials containing very little or no silica. The most common include gypsum (e.g. in plasterboard), limestone, marble and dolomite.

  • Asbestos

    A group of tiny minerals that was used a lot in building work in the past. When material containing asbestos is moved or damaged, a dust containing fibres of asbestos can go into the air and be breathed in.

Smoking is the biggest risk factor for lung conditions like COPD and lung cancer

If you smoke, you will be at a much higher risk of developing a lung condition.


How can your health be affected?

How to protect yourself

Your employer has a responsibility to ensure the work environment is appropriately ventilated and that you are provided with protective clothing and appropriate safety advice.

Here are six easy things you can do to ensure you're doing everything you can to protect your lung health at work.

  • Assess Risk

    Do risk assessments to make sure you are doing jobs safely and efficiently.

  • Work carefully

    Avoid making too much dust when you work:

    • Use water to dampen and reduce dust clouds
    • Use extraction equipment on your tools where possible
    • If there is an option to use a tool that creates less dust, use it
  • Ventilation

    Make sure that your work area is appropriately ventilated so that cleaner air can come into the room.

    Make sure you have a dust extractor and that it is switched on and working.

  • Protective masks

    A mask can stop you developing a work-related lung condition caused by inhaling hazardous substances.

    Different masks are available in a range of sizes and designs, so if you are having trouble using a mask supplied by your employer you should discuss the options for using a different kind of mask.

  • Keep it clean

    • Use an industrial vacuum to clear dust from the floors, walls and rafters
    • If using a brush wet the dust before sweeping it up
    • Avoid getting dust on your own clothes and hair – wear overalls and headgear
    • If wearing your own clothes, wash them regularly and leave them at work – do not wear them at home
  • Health check-ups

    Get your health regularly checked – either through a health scheme at your workplace, or by regularly seeing a healthcare professional.

More information